Parents have a great responsibility to look after their children’s teeth during their developing years. This task is not always easy, as children can struggle to learn how to brush their teeth effectively. Luckily, there are ways your dentist can help you protect your child’s teeth from early tooth decay. One of the ways your dentist can help you is by recommending dental sealant.

Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that can be painted onto the chewing surfaces of your child’s teeth. The sealant forms a protective barrier over the grooves in your child’s teeth, especially in their back teeth (the premolars and molars). Regular and thorough brushing and flossing does remove food particles and plaque from the surfaces of our teeth. However, these activities cannot always get into all the grooves of the back teeth.

When food is left in the teeth, bacteria digests the sugars in the food debris and excretes harmful acids that eat away at tooth enamel. Dental sealants create a layer over these vulnerable areas to prevent any plaque or food build up. Preventing any food debris from becoming stuck in your child’s teeth greatly decreases your child’s risk of developing tooth decay.

The Research Behind Dental Sealants

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published in 2016 stated that dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities for two years after application and continue to protect against 50% of cavities for up to four years. Data collected between the years 2011 and 2014 showed about 43% of 6 to 11 year olds had at least one dental sealant.

The report also stated that school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants. Additionally, national data between the period of 1999 to 2004 indicated that by age 19, approximately one in five children have untreated tooth decay.

Should Your Child Receive Dental Sealants?

Since children usually start to develop cavities around the ages of 6 to 14, they should have sealants placed on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. This way, their teeth are protected before a cavity has chance to develop.

If your child has teeth that have exceptionally deep grooves, you may want to consider placing dental sealants on your child’s baby teeth. Your child’s first/temporary teeth can also develop cavities if they are not cleaned properly. Deep depressions in a young child’s teeth will make them difficult to keep clean and cavity free.

Although baby teeth will eventually fall out, it is important that they stay in the mouth, and are not lost to tooth decay, before the permanent teeth are ready to emerge, as baby teeth play an important role in holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth.

Sealants need to be checked for chips and wear and tear at regular dental check-ups, and need to be replaced if necessary to ensure your child’s teeth are properly protected. Since February is National Child Dental Health Month, it is a perfect time to take your child to the dentist, and ensure their dental health is where it should be. Your dentist will also be able to tell you if your child is at risk of developing cavities, and if dental sealant is the way to go.